Problem with pay-at-the-pump
The article in Tuesday’s Vail Daily, “Are gas prices fueling gas thefts?” asks an interesting question. Simply writing an article about the question suggests that the answer is “yes.” However, after reading the article, it seems that the answer is a surprising “no.” In fact, I was intrigued to learn that gas thefts in Eagle County seem pretty rare; eight total last year in unincorporated Eagle County, according to the article.
So why are gas station owners overreacting? If the Highway 6 Cafe experienced five gas thefts this year before they recently switched to pre-pay, as the article says, we can reasonably project that they would have had maybe 10 gas thefts in 2008 if they had left things alone. If each thefts averages $100, that adds up to $1,000 per year.
By switching to pre-pay or pay-at-the-pump only, however, the owner has removed the incentive for many real customers to come inside and pay after filling up. Don’t gas station owners make most of their money on customers who come inside and buy other items? I know I am one of those customers. If a gas station allows paying after a fill-up, I may wander inside and buy a bottle of soda or a snack because it remains one transaction. If I have to pay at the pump and pay again after buying an item inside, then I often choose not to go inside at all. I never pre-pay, because I almost always fill the tank, and I don’t know how much gas it will take.
By not allowing customers to pay inside after they pump, it is very likely that the gas station owners are shrinking those extra purchases that make them the most profit. Gas station owners should reconsider this position, because “a ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”